By Benjie Shaw
I’ve always hated NASCAR. I’ve never found anything more pointless than watching a lot of cars repeatedly making left turns for hours on end. My granddad loved NASCAR. Countless Sunday afternoons were spent sitting around the living room of my grandparents’ house with NASCAR on the TV as granddad napped (irony?) in his recliner. Even though his snoring could wake a hibernating grizzly, God help you if you turned the TV. He would pop up in the recliner and exclaim, “I’m watching that!”
Even though I despise the sport, I picked up a few things. One of the more interesting aspects of racing I discovered was the concept of the “groove” on the track. Once a driver found the groove he could improve his speed and either gain ground on the leaders or distance his lead. Drivers repeatedly groused about their inability to find the groove. When the groove was finally found their joy could hardly be contained on radio transmissions. The groove offers the past of least resistance around the track. Finding and staying in the groove is key to making quick progress and winning the race.
The groove is sometimes difficult to find because it changes depending on weather conditions. When the track is hot some parts are more slippery. When the track is cold the tires grip parts of the track more easily. Sometimes tracks have more than one groove. Drivers will sometimes switch back and forth between the grooves as it is most beneficial for them in the particular moment of the race.
When we talk about developing and cultivating a devotional life we typically espouse, perhaps unknowingly, a “one-size-fits-all” approach. We find something that works for us that, since that’s what we know, that’s what we talk about. Personally, I was taught a specific method of having a quiet time that I practiced for over a decade. That approach relied heavily on an inductive style of Bible study that could be time consuming but was fulfilling. I was learning and I was connecting with God.
Along the way, something changed. I got married. I became a seminary student. I started working at a church. I maintained a side job to help pay the bills. After a year of this, I was burnt out. My devotional life, while still present, was dry. Quiet times became something to do instead of a wellspring of life that connected me with God. Something hand to change.
Out of desperation I took a step back. I cut back on the time I spent on reading and learning new things. I focused on life application of truth I already knew. I prayed more. I spent time in reflection. I focused in on a single passage for a week at a time. I tried to memorize it. I steadfastly resolved to take a Sabbath.
In short order I was revitalized. My faith was fresh. I noticed personal growth in areas in which I had been struggling. Others noticed a change. All it took was finding the new groove.
Resistance and Reform
Sometimes our insistence on holding on to old patterns, even good ones, is detrimental to our spiritual development. I am a firm believer that God leads and orchestrates the situations of life. New life situations require multiple adjustments in various layers of life: time commitments, finances, sleep patterns, etc. Why, then, are adjustments to devotional habits often resisted? Could it be that we are missing an opportunity to know and trust God more deeply? Could it be that God has caused a change in our lives that has disrupted our good pattern in order to have us experience him in a new, fresh way?
Presently, I’m in the process of finding the groove again. I’m discovering that babies have a way of laying waste to the best-laid plans, so I’m learning to be flexible in my devotional life. I’m discovering and re-discovering ways to connect with God throughout the day. My prayer life has deepened considerably. As all new parents say, my understanding and appreciation of God as a Father is fresh and deepening.
The groove in your spiritual life is ever-changing. Don’t fall behind by fighting it. There is more to gain by trying a new thing than resisting and growing dull.
Benjie is the Interim Associate Campus Minister with Baptist Collegiate Ministries at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, TN. He is Jenna’s husband and Ava’s dad. He is a graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary where he received his M.Div in Christian Thought (or, as he calls it, “Christian Nerdery”) and Georgia Southern University with a B.S. in Exercise Science (Hail Southern!). He loves superhero movies, good coffee, college students, catching up with friends, and the Atlanta Braves. Connect with Benjie on Twitter: @benjie_shaw.